Calvary as Theophany: Part 3, Loved, But Saved?

Let's review.

Christ is the Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World. The crucifixion of Jesus didn't mark a change in God's affections for us. God has always loved us, before we were even born, before the world even existed. For us, within our history, this truth comes into view on the cross at a specific time and place, but what we see on Calvary is a theophany, an unveiling, an apocalypse of God's love for us. 

To bring the point home even more clearly, we've always been forgiven. We've always been covered by grace. As Paul declares, Christ died for the ungodly, while we were sinners and enemies of God. 

But this raises a question, the one from the last post: Wouldn't this mean that we are saved already? Forgiven already?

Well, yes and no. Let me say it this way: Forgiven, yes. Loved, yes. But saved? Saved is a work in progress. 

To back up a step, the argument I've been making in the last two posts will seem banal to many of you. God loves you. God has always loved you. Love wins.

True enough. But the apocalypse of the Son wasn't Jesus walking around like a Cosmic Flower Child handing out daisies with the words, "I love you." To be sure, Jesus did a lot of that. Every time Jesus touched a leper or befriended a sex worker that was God saying "I love you." But the thing that keeps the gospel from reducing to a cozy message of cosmic beneficence is the fact that Jesus was tortured and murdered. There's a lot of blood on the floor that needs to be accounted for. The theophany of Love appears in the midst of a crucifixion.   

The "Love Wins" message you hear from progressive Christians stands befuddled before the cross. The God of progressive Christianity beams mildly and universally upon all of humanity full of grace and unconditional love. No matter what, God's love shines upon you.

And this is 100% the truth. No matter what, God's love shines upon you. Always has, always will. From the foundation of the world you were already forgiven. 

But this is only partly the truth. 

The whole truth is that when this Love entered the world it was crucified. The Love of God isn't beaming down upon us like a rainbow, it's bloody and hanging on a cross. Why?

Here's how Paul answers that question: 

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2.7-8)
The Lord of glory enters the world and "the rulers of this age" kill him. Who are these rulers? Yes, we can look at historical personages--Herod, Pilate, the Sanhedrin. But the real powers Paul is speaking about are the dark cosmic forces that hold the world in bondage, Satan preeminently, described as the "ruler of the world" by Jesus (John 12.31) and by Paul as "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4.4). To not put too fine a point on it, Satan killed Jesus. Orchestrated the whole thing. See: Luke 22.3-6.  

The point to be observed here is that the theophany of Love is an apocalyptic invasion of enemy-occupied territory. That is why Jesus was killed. And that is why the gospel cannot be reduced to a flower child sermon where God is a passive, beaming beacon of love shining magnanimously down upon all humankind. The Love of God was an invasion of the world, engaging a battle that is still raging hotly at this very moment.

Which brings us back to the issue at hand. 

Loved? Yes, from the foundation of the world. 

Forgiven? Yes, from the foundation of the world.

Graced and blessed? Yes, from the foundation of the world.

The love you see in Jesus, hanging on the cross, is how God feels about you, has always felt about you. You are loved.

But saved? Well now, that is the issue, isn't it? And it boils down to where you stand in the Apocalyptic War now raging about us. We are standing on a battlefield. Do we see this, or have we been blinded by the god of this world? True enough, Love most certainly wins, but to win in this world it will take the shape of the Crucified. A message that, to the perishing, to those under the tyranny of the devil, retains its shock and scandal. The shape of the theophany of Love is a stumbling block. 

Here's my point. The message "God loves you" is totally true. We need to preach it from every street corner. But we routinely fail to share the hazardous nature of that message. The rulers of this age killed Jesus and they will try to kill you as well. Maybe not physically, but the devil will try to poison your mental health, ruin your marriage, alienate you children, haunt you with suicide, trap you in addiction, blind you with wealth, drown you in shame, imprison you with despair, lure you with pornography, distract you with social media, and teach you to hate. 

Yes, dear reader, you are loved. God loves you. Love, love, loves you. 

But are you saved? This is the pressing question.

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